Federal funds offer $50 million expansion of Delaware workforce training programs

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Delaware is expanding its efforts to train both today’s workers looking for a new career and students coming up through the pipeline. Tuesday morning, State leaders announced plans to use $50 million from the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan funds to expand several programs to better prepare workers for jobs.

When the pandemic first hit, thousands lost their jobs. The most affected workers were the least skilled, said Delaware Department of Labor Secretary Karryl Hubbard.

“We know that 75% of those individuals who lost their jobs during the first months after the pandemic began had a 12th grade education or less,” Hubbard said. “That meant we needed to develop solutions that provided individuals with credentials to enable these workers to access better jobs.”

That led to the creation of the job training program called Forward Delaware with the help of $16 million in federal CARES Act funding. As a result of that program, about 4,000 Delawareans got training in health care, IT, construction, hospitality, food service, and logistics.

Now, the state will use more federal funding to expand the program.

“Successful workforce development efforts increase our population’s employability and can change the economic trajectory of low-income and less educated workers and their families by fostering economic mobility,” Hubbard said.

The funding also includes a $15.8 million expansion of Delaware’s Pathways program which allows students to get work experience in the real world. The investment will help the program grow from serving 20,000 high school students to reach 32,000, or about 80% of all Delaware public high school students. The program will also expand into middle school, where it’s expected to help another 6,000 students.

“Delaware’s collaborative efforts will further ‘blur the lines’ between school and work and make the world after graduation much more tangible and attainable for thousands of young people,” said Rod Ward, president and CEO of Corporation Service Company and board chair of the Rodel Foundation, which supports Pathways connection between public and private sectors.

Pathways’ goal, in part, is to create more students like Imani Wulff-Cochrane.

She’s planning to graduate next spring from St. Georges Technical High School near Middletown. She’ll end her high school years with more than a diploma. As part of the program at St. Georges, she’s earning two Training in Early Care and Education (TECE) certificates needed to start working in early child education.

“This means that I am fully equipped to enter either the workforce or a college setting,” Wulff-Cochrane said.

As part of her schoolwork, she was able to work with young students at a preschool based at St. Georges and put her education into action while still in high school.

“It’s one thing to understand a challenge, but it’s another to actually do it,” she said, describing how a youngster cried and threw a tantrum while she was trying to teach the lesson she’d prepared. “Rather than scare me or turn me away from this profession, this experience has solidified my passion and desire to become an educator.”

The state will add another $8.3 million to the program to support apprenticeship programs in areas like health care, IT, finance, and engineering.

Another $1.5 million will expand other training programs operated by the Dept. of Labor focused on areas of health care, logistics, and transportation. Another million will go to support training and help for people trying to get work in the hospitality industry. DelDOT’s workforce development academy will get $1.2 million to increase participation in construction among women and Black and Latino workers.

Earlier this week, the state unveiled a plan to spend another $26.4 million in pandemic relief money to advance a redevelopment project in Wilmington’s Riverside neighborhood. That money will expedite construction on 350 homes in the next two years as part of a $200 million initiative. A total of 600 modern homes will be built in Riverside when the project is fully completed.

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